Why I support the WSCADV

Guest blogger: Mike C. This post originally appeared on CauseCords.com.

Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV
Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV

Ever since I could remember, fundraising to support local charities was always something I was motivated to do. Whether it was racing up a building to support cancer research, selling cookies and pies to benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis, or walking amongst thousands to support children with autism; I enjoyed knowing that I could play a small part in changing someone’s life for the better. It wasn’t until I started collecting donations for victims of domestic violence that I realized how big of an impact I was making.

Being a survivor of domestic abuse is not something that is commonly advertised, such as beating cancer. Most victims work to move away from the painful memories of their past, even though that means leaving behind many beloved aspects of their lives. Domestic abuse does more than just inflict physical damage; it tears apart families, causes emotional distress, shatters trust in others, and leaves scars that can have an lasting effect for generations. Unless you or someone you love has experienced it, most people aren’t aware of other victims of domestic violence, and yet they are all around us.

I am lucky. I am not a victim or survivor of DV, but in my efforts to support the WSCADV I’ve received testimony from those who have survived. People that I have known for years, but was unaware of their suffering, confusion, and pain. For the first time, I could see how my charitable efforts changed lives for the better. I could see how the power of advocacy and awareness could help those around me and truly change my community.

The resources are in place, the network for relief and rescue is in order, and there are people who want to help. All we need is the funding. That is why I support the WSCADV and victims of DV.

Out of the binder and into the fire

Photo courtesy of bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com

I do not think of myself as a competitive person. I mean, I don’t play games where I might win or lose.  Board games and sports are not my thing.

Yet, I’m obsessed with polls, the world-series, and Binders Full of Women.

This year, for the first time, I find myself watching the presidential debates simulcast with social media.  I wonder what my imaginary friends are thinking as we watch from our separate couches. I have two screens going.

Thus, the eruption of sites sporting Binders Full of Women DURING the debate—and the growth of one Facebook site from 32K likes in the middle of the debate to 348K at the time of this writing—leaves me scratching my head.

Clearly, the comments of (mostly) women on these sites express humor—I presume fueled by outrage. I experience the thrill, as a feminist, as I read these comments and get full belly laughs from the creativity and wonderful writing. The reviews of 3-ring binders on Amazon are even funnier than the reviews of Bic for Her.

But.

But! Is all this outpouring of creativity only serving to quell the outrage? Do women and men close up their computers and go out for a beer—slapping their hands together slap-slap “There! I told them.”?

Because if that is true, then putting all this creativity into humor alone is only as politically effective as say, putting butter on the third degree burns of women’s lived experiences.

We cannot simply feel all self-satisfied making snarky comments on social media about the things candidates say about women and thinking we are done. This does not get us women candidates and women in office. Does not get us allies pulling for our liberation. Does not get us reproductive justice. And my personal favorite (this being breast cancer awareness month) does not get us an environment where a whole bunch of us aren’t walking around traumatized by cancer. It does not.

BUT (and this is the last one) I am not calling for the end of snark. By all means, snark away. And then close up your computer and get out there!! Vote and mail your ballot, study the economy so you can tell the truth from a lie, volunteer for a women’s program. Do.

Occupy breast cancer

My girlfriend and I used to have four breasts between us. Then 16 years ago, we lost one. Then another last year. As of December 21, we are down to one.

Quite honestly, breast cancer is not the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it is painful, time consuming and expensive. I doubt this cancer is going to kill me―though several of my friends have not been so lucky.

Because I had weeks to sit around and think about it, I connected even more dots than the last time I blogged about this topic. My cancers were caused by all the toxic chemicals I’ve encountered in my lifetime. As a woman, I’m at a huge disadvantage in a toxic world. As one of my radiologists said to me “I hate to break it to you, but breasts are mostly fat.” Get it? Fat = storage. My breasts were like bank accounts for a ready flow of chemical cash.

Okay, that’s gross, but do you want to hear something super ironic? This from Barbara Ehrenreich in her brutal essay “Welcome to Cancerland”―one chemical company that manufactures carcinogenic pesticides is the same company that makes one of the most common treatments for breast cancer. Causing and curing cancer―flip sides of the same profit.

Profit. Corporate greed. Follow the thread.

Sitting in twelve clinic waiting rooms last month, I also got a big dose of magazine popular culture. All I can say is &^@*$. One ridiculous manifestation of a woman’s image after another selling absolutely nothing that anyone really needs. Profitable images. That’s all. Profit. And again women are paying the price.

Enough diagnosis. Let’s get on to the treatment plan.

The main thing I want to say about this is that there is absolutely NOTHING you can do as one lone individual to create the level of change our world needs. Individual actions serve as a reminder of the immediacy of the problem, but they don’t solve it.

The other main thing I want to say is that you as an individual are the ONLY person who can create the change our world so desperately needs. Yes. You. And you. And you. All of us―together.

Editor’s note: We are remembering Ellen Pence, who died last week of breast cancer. We note with sadness our growing losses. 

What next? Part 6

Earlier this year, our executive director, Nan Stoops, was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her assignment: outline a five-point plan for ending violence against women and girls.

Here is the final installment of her speech. (Or jump to: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Point #5: Recognize the beloved community

I want to close by talking about the beloved community. I was recently re-introduced to the concept of beloved community, and I had two instant realizations: one was that beloved community describes what I have always hoped we can achieve, and the second was that the beloved community is something I have already experienced.

For me, the beloved community is characterized by integrity, respect, openness, kindness, honesty, curiosity, authenticity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, hard work, fair play, good humor, and a belief in the abundant possibilities of our humanity.

I experience the beloved community in different ways with my co-workers back home, with friends, family, my softball team, and neighbors. Almost always, food is involved. Laughter too, and, sometimes, tears. We acknowledge that we are in community with one another, we work together to sustain it, we appreciate the privileges it represents, and do not take it for granted.

At certain times, I expect to be in the presence of beloved community. But it is the unexpected moments that take my breath away. Like when the driver of elementary school bus #4 told her riders that she would drive her route for as long as she could while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, and that night the children shaved their heads in solidarity.

Or when 16-year-old Isaiah T. read his poem entitled “It was taken some time ago” about the many losses in his life, and about staying with his homeless mother, and staying in school, and staying with the memories of all that was taken some time ago. The standing ovation Isaiah received was our wish for a beloved community for him.

Or when a 62-year-old woman marched in Seattle’s “Slutwalk” to protest against the Toronto police officer who said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This particular woman marched in grey pants, a red sweater, a scarf, and brown loafers. She had bought them 40 years ago to replace the same outfit that the police had bagged as evidence after she was raped. She had never planned to wear the clothes, but she just wanted to have them. As she marched, she carried a sign that read “this is what I was wearing.” Beloved community.

Each of us might think of beloved community differently. What’s important is that we know it when we see it. And that we work today as if we plan to live in it tomorrow. Beloved community. Freedom, now and always.

What an anti-violence expert learned from the BBC

After ten years of working against domestic violence, I was fairly sure I “got it.” Then something really crazy happened to me: doctors found a gigantic tumor in my six-month-old baby daughter’s head.

It was a rare, aggressive cancer. She went through brain surgery, intense chemotherapy and radiation. We spent six months in the hospital and even traveled across the country to get what she needed.

We referred to the whole ordeal as the “BBC” (Baby with Brain Cancer), believing that something as ridiculous as childhood cancer deserved a ridiculous nickname.

When I came back to work, I began to see the experiences of abused people in a new light and saw many parallels to my experience:

When your intimate partner is abusing you:

And/Or

When your child is diagnosed with cancer:
  • It is unexpected, devastating and totally inconsistent with your dreams and desires
  • You have to make some tough decisions when all of your options are pretty crappy
  • You need your family, friends and community more than ever
  • It’s hard to concentrate on anything else when lives are on the line
  • In shelters and hospitals: sharing space with strangers and dealing with institutional rules is a drag
  • Money makes a huge difference

I did notice one key difference: Our family got oodles of sympathy and tangible support, and virtually no one questioned our choices. But what I have seen in my work is that many survivors of abuse get the opposite reaction. The experiences are similar; the stakes are equally high, but the response tends to be a lot less supportive. Why is that?

P.S. My daughter is currently showing no evidence of disease. But just like survivors of abuse, the fear of what might happen still lingers.